When is the Last Time?
The anger welled up inside like a white hot coal. Why were relationships so darned bumpy? Verbal responses pinged around in my brain like multiple metal balls in a pinball machine. What was said, what should be said, and would be said – all kept my mind buzzing as I negotiated the familiar road.
My internal video evaporated as I spotted the red flashing lights of an emergency response vehicle. Ahead I saw waving firefighters, more county vehicles, and the undercarriage of what had previously been a vehicle driving down this same road. As the first responders waved me toward a detour I took in the scene. The rest of the vehicle – no longer attached, was spread in all directions. This did not bode well for driver or possible passengers. I prayed a Guardian Angel prayer for all involved.
Wake Up Call
Immediately my focus shifted. I was no longer angry. My thoughts turned to my loved ones and hovered, hesitantly, over visions of their location and safety. That wake up call summoned up instant remorse, forgiveness, and unconditional love. What foolish creations we are! How can we originate from a creator Who unhesitatingly gave His only Son to die for us and our transgressions?
The answer is unconditional love. We fail to maintain awareness of the constant blessings of our lives. Our many gifts are taken for granted while we focus on minor irritations. But what would happen if we tried to make more sense out of this earthly life? Focusing on gratitude and realizing the inevitability of the ‘last time’ could provide a much needed wake up call.
A Last Time
Remembering the last time my mother and I went on one of our customary shopping trips escapes me. She and I were quite the team, with trailing kids (hers and mine) to stores. We enjoyed a bit of retail therapy and found bargains that would make any penny-pincher green with envy. Then, during an ordinary checkup, she was diagnosed with cancer. In that instant, life changed for our family.
In a five year cycle she had surgery and chemo, recovered, was re-diagnosed, had chemo, and failed to recover. Mom died at the tender age of 58. All the while I cannot remember the last time ‘the girls’ went out on the town for a day of fun and laughter. It is a memory I hold dear but it has an elusive quality, because it was not marked by any one special ending. There was no warning; it just ended and that, was that.
Hopefully, with each experience, we grow in wisdom and many realizations come to us. Like Adam and Even after The Fall, we become more aware. We no longer simply exist, pursuing one pleasant pastime after another. Instead, it becomes our mission to find relevance and purpose in life’s events. This is as it should be.
After my own cancer diagnosis, at the age of 48, I found myself becoming more introspective. There is nothing quite like the jolt into reality provided by the looming evidence of mortality. In searching for a way to deal with the possibility of an early demise, I became more fully aware of life’s priorities. This eye opening conclusion did not come all at once; it came after quite a bit of self searching.
My initial reaction was a combination of foreboding and defeat. I remember telling my husband that I was determined not to undergo treatment because my death was a certainty. Only by God’s grace and the intervention of a holy priest did I come to the conclusion that surrender was not a just option. With the grace bestowed by being anointed, the priest’s counsel began to lift my mental fog. Not only did I owe my family my best effort, God deserved my faith in His plan for me.
Aided by His grace and God-given determination, I successfully battled cancer and have been blessed with twelve years as a survivor. Through the grace of God I hope to continue and grow old with my husband. As God’s gift to me through the Sacrament of Matrimony, he is my earthly priority. Yet, I realize that some day there will be a last time for one of us. I also find less trepidation in that reality.
Silently contemplating last times, led to a conversation with my husband. Desiring to share my thoughts with him, I asked, “Have you ever thought, when will be the last time in our lives?” His response was spot on. We should enjoy each day and occasion as if it was the last. Our conversation continued as we recalled things we enjoy doing together and vowed to be more aware each day. God truly put this man into my life for a reason. Each day we pursue the goal of helping each other attain heaven.
“By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.” This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life…” Catechism of the Catholic Church 1641
Time Marches On
Last times usually go marching by without any fanfare, unless there is a milestone: the last ball game, the last year of school, or the last day at work. Unknowingly, we while away our days in oblivion. As the days, weeks, months, and then years flit by we drift in our unmindfulness. Yet it is a good idea to live today as if it is our last, whether spiritually or mortally.
Our Eternal Destiny depends on our believing that Jesus will come “like a thief in the night” – that is a worthy focus. However, there are earthly reasons to sharpen awareness as well. We should cherish the times we spend with those we love or those who depend on us – taking care to treat each contact as if it were our last.
We attended to a funeral recently. It was for a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. The family had many wonderful memories. He had known of his impending death and had had an opportunity to share a ‘last time’ with all of his loved ones. Some people, however, are not so lucky. They go in an unexpected instant…that last kiss goodbye really is the last kiss goodbye. This fact should remind us to make each ‘goodbye’ special – each ‘I love you’ an aware, “look that person in the eye and mean it”, special. You never know; it may be the last time.
Our souls, too, need this awareness. Being prepared for His Coming is the most important goal in our lives.
Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is. Even as a man who going into a far country, left his house; and gave authority to his servants over every work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore, (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh: at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning,) Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch. Mark 13:33-37